Neil Gorsuch's mother was the first female head of the EPA

Judge Neil Gorsuch.
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

If Judge Neil Gorsuch's last name sounds familiar, it's probably not because of him, but rather his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan.

Gorsuch is President Trump's nominee for Supreme Court justice, and a federal appeals court judge from Colorado. In 1981, his mother was serving as a Colorado state legislator when Reagan chose her to lead the EPA, the first woman to do so. Alongside James Watt as secretary of the interior, Burford "personified the 'Sagebrush Rebellion' of the 1970s and 1980s, an attempt by ranchers, farmers, miners, and oil interests to overturn federal land use and environmental regulations," Jerry Adler writes at Yahoo News. The EPA's budget was cut by 22 percent, and research and regulations on air and water pollution were dramatically scaled back.

Almost two years into her tenure, a congressional investigation was launched into her management of the Superfund program, and after Burford, on the grounds of executive privilege, refused to comply with subpoenas, she became the first Cabinet-level official to be cited for contempt of Congress. Not long after, she resigned. Burford died of cancer in 2004.

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